Mos Def Breaks It Down on Japanese Streets for Current TV

[show=mosdef]You know that “If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be?” meme? Well, I’ve always been bad at picking the other four, but the one diner I’m sure about is Mos Def. Mainly because I know for sure that given the speed with which he lays down rhymes, he can more than keep up in conversation.

The actor/rapper has represented the more socially aware side of hip-hop for more than 10 years, releasing singles that include criticizing George W. Bush and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, while also taking the occasional absence from his musical duties to delve into forays with movie stardom (his dry delivery and emotive face have made him the best part of The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and other films).

And damn you, Current TV, for getting to hang out with him. Last March, producers from Current’s upcoming music show met up with Mos Def during his Japan tour, and along the way managed to get some exclusive material from him. Specifically, at least three a cappella versions of tracks from his upcoming album The Ecstatic, dropping June 9, performed seemingly impromptu while wandering the streets.

The most noteworthy of the videos is Mos Def’s rendition of the first Ecstatic single, Casa Bey on the streets of Osaka, Japan. Watching the rapper bust through the lyrics with well-practiced ease, even in the most unlikely of environments, elicits tremendous respect for his MC skills. And as presented by Current — one fluid take, performed into the camera with only a few floating graphics to set up the event — Mos Def’s talents are clearly highlighted.

Another interesting performance is Mos Def’s recitation of Embassy, the international tone of which is all too apt when contrasted against the exotic setting for the performance. But the Auditorium video‘s got a killer beginning — Mos Def strolling out of an elevator and smoothly beginning the recitation of lyrics.

The overall experience is intimate: one performer, doing what he does best, even in overalls. (The Casa Bey video opens with his glee over how overalls simplify the conundrum of getting dressed in the morning.) As a celebration of talent, it’s sublime. Because if this is what happens when Mos Def walks down the street in Japan, imagine what else might have happened there.